Braves, Nats rub shoulders with Bush
President drops by clubhouses before Sunday's opener
WASHINGTON -- The Atlanta Braves were gathered in a corner of the clubhouse, assembled for a team photo.They were told to be ready ahead of time, because their impending guest wouldn't have much time to hang around. Then President George W. Bush strode into the room and took the picture, but he didn't go anywhere. He walked around the clubhouse, shaking every hand, signing every autograph and addressing some players by name. "Not many people get to say they met the president of the United States and shook his hand," Braves reliever Chris Resop said. "He's a special human being and a very powerful man. It's an honor." Resop got a hat signed, while other players asked the president to sign a jersey or pose for a photo. President Bush had a hefty entourage of about 15 Secret Service agents with him, but he moved around the room freely and greeted the players. The president is a baseball fan who has been known to watch games by satellite on Air Force One, at the White House or wherever duty takes him. He was once the owner of the Texas Rangers, and, as a result, was able to speak knowledgeably with the players. "He was very cordial. He knows a lot about the game," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "I know it was lots of fun for our team." After chatting with the Braves, he headed into the Nationals' clubhouse to meet the team before throwing out the ceremonial first pitch at the new Nationals Park. It was still a special event for the team, even though it was the president's fifth appearance at a Washington baseball game. The Nationals are 3-2 when he is in attendance. "This was my third time, and this picture will go on the wall with the other two," Nationals reliever Ray King said. "He knew some of the guys and talked to them on a first-name basis. That makes us feel like he really understands what's going on out here at the Nationals."
Commissioner Bud Selig was wrapping up a trip that took him to China and Japan and said he couldn't think of a better way of ending the trip than at the newest "cathedral of baseball."
On the field, the action was just as intense, with the Nationals winning, 3-2, on a walk-off home run from Ryan Zimmerman."It was a beautiful game," Cox said. "It just didn't go our way." The players were focused not on the lines at Ben's Chili Bowl or the enormous video board, but rather on how the park would play.
Michael Phillips is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.